Veterans

Medical centre for veterans proposed for Burnside

Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs heard proposal Tuesday

Members of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs hear a proposal for a new medical centre for veterans in Burnside.   Olivia Lavery

A medical centre for veterans suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder and other illnesses and injuries has been proposed for Burnside.

Sgt. Roland Lawless, Lt-Col. John F. Harrison, along with Valerie Mitchell-Veinotte, the executive director of the Royal Canadian Legion of Nova Scotia and Nunavut Command, pitched the centre to the standing committee on veterans affairs on Tuesday.  

“We’re desperately trying to look after veterans,” said Harrison. “More and more of those guys and girls are suffering from a thing called PTSD.”

Lawless, Harrison and Mitchell-Veinotte said a designated centre would give veterans a place to go where they feel understood and heard.

“We have no firm place to take somebody when they’re in distress,” said Lawless, who also suffers from PTSD.

The proposed location for the centre is the bottom floor of the Operational Stress Injury Clinic in Burnside. Lawless said that this location would be accessible for people travelling from rural or outlying communities.

It would function as a “multi-faceted clinic,” said Lawless. Doctors — some of whom would be former military doctors — would treat both mental and physical illnesses.

Mitchell-Veinotte said the centre would “minimize the need to explain and re-explain” veterans’ experiences. They would be treated by professionals who are specifically trained and familiar with those experiences.

Lawless has been pushing for this kind of medical centre for years. Lawless’ proposal from last year had the centre based out of Camp Hill Veterans Memorial Building in Halifax. The proposed location was changed so that patients wouldn’t have to go into the city itself to get treatment. 

The members of the standing committee were largely in favour of the idea.

Karla McFarlane, MLA for Pictou West, said if the proposal doesn’t move forward it would be “a betrayal against the men and women who sacrifice their lives to protect ours.”

Ben Jessome, MLA for Hammonds Plains-Lucasville, said it would need to be established whether or not veterans would be willing to travel across the province to get to the centre.

The proposal did not include an estimated price for the project.

“What we’re missing at this stage is for either level of government to step up and say we will take this model, we will assign dollars to it, we will tell you that this model is workable,” said Mitchell-Veinotte.

“We need your (government) help to move the initiative forward. We’ve provided everything we can provide at this stage.”

Standing Committee members agreed funding needed to be split between federal and provincial governments, but no concrete decisions were made on Tuesday.

The proposal is expected to be brought up again during the next Standing Committee on Veteran Affairs meeting in February.